Initially, fans might be puzzled, even angered, by the reunion tour of bagpipe-breezy Scottish guitar group Big Country. The band is not anchored by charismatic Stuart Adamson, who committed suicide in his Hawaiian hotel room in December 2001 and was beloved by peers; U2's The Edge delivered his funeral eulogy. Yet the lineup of the band's new album, "The Journey," includes key original members such as powerhouse drummer Mark Brzezicki and E-bow-favoring guitarist Bruce Watson (augmented by his guitarist son Jamie), plus Simple Minds bassist Derek Forbes and, on vocals and acoustic, The Alarm's Mike Peters, who has the same raspy register as Adamson. They're also celebrating the 30th anniversary of Big Country's debut, "The Crossing," Peters points out. And they still sound great.
The Alarm knew Big Country back in the day, right? Yeah, we did. We played together before we ever came to America. I met Stuart for the first time in early 1983. Onstage with U2, funnily enough. I'd been teaching U2 how to play "Knocking On Heaven's Door," and Bono got me up to sing with him at Hammersmith Palais. Stuart was in the crowd, and Bono whispered to me, "I'm bringing Stuart Adamson on, as well." And he came over the heads of the crowd. They lifted him up and put him onstage, and I took his hand and helped him over the barricade. So a friendship started, and our paths crossed quite a lot.
Is it true that you played Big Country's last concert ever with Stuart? Yes, at Barrowlands in Glasgow. We played the last song together, and I walked offstage with him. And at that point, he was living in Nashville and trying to get into country music, and he was moving away from the core of what Big Country had been about, musically. So he was talking quite openly about it — that he was prepared to let the band continue on without him, and he was suggesting to everyone that I should be the singer. I just thought he needed some time away, but he was really serious about it.
How did you finally join? In 2010, I was doing a mountain climb in Wales, and my phone rang in my backpack — it was Bruce, saying, "Big Country is playing two songs at a charity gig for Steve Lilywhite, and we'd like it if you'd be the singer." I didn't hear a thing for two weeks, then I got another call from Bruce. He said, "The gig's not happening, but because you were so enthusiastic, we booked a tour!" And it just went on from there, and new music started happening naturally.IF YOU GO
Opening for Berlin
Where: Uptown Theatre, 1350 Third St., Napa
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: $40Contact: (707) 259-0123, www.ticketmaster.com